April 18 2015

One of your editors has been sitting all alone at home this week, slaving over a hot laptop, while her partner in crime swanned around the London Book Fair hob-nobbing with publicists and authors. So if you saw Linda, we hope you said hello. And please send chocolate for Sharon …

We’ve got a couple of non-fiction books that should attract the devoted crime fiction fan. Writing royalty Val McDermid takes a look behind the scenes of the fascinating world of forensic science. Linda Wilson says that Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime does justice to the excellent linked exhibition at the Wellcome Institute. Former chief constable Michael O’Byrne’s The Crime Writer’s Guide to Police Practice and Procedure does what it says on the tin, says Linda – although she wasn’t so convinced by his plot advice!

Small town America gets several outings this week. Sharon Wheeler suspected that Harlan Coben’s standalone The Stranger was going to conform to his usual formula. Well, it kind of did – but was still a cracking page-turner. And Sylvia Wilson praised Lisa Jackson’s Close to Home, with its spooky supposedly haunted house. Chris Roberts enjoyed the black humour of Jamie Kornegay’s debut novel Soil, where an agricultural pioneer in Mississippi falls foul of a deluded sheriff.

Chris did well with another debut novel – Owen Laukkanen’s The Professionals, where a law enforcement pair get all the snappy lines as they chase four graduates who have taken up kidnapping to raise money across the US. And he says that Sebastian Rotella’s The Convert’s Song is a thriller that takes the reader to some dangerous places.

There are some arse-kicking women around too. John Cleal adored Anna Smith’s Betrayed, where reporter Rosie Gilmour tangles with the Ulster Volunteer Force. Sharon Wheeler reckons the female characters stole the show in Margaret Duffy’s Ashes to Ashes, a rather unusual thriller that’s not quite a cosy or a police procedural.

If you want an entertaining, lurid thriller with exotic heroes and Nazi baddies, go for A Scream in Soho by John G Brandon, written in the early 1940s. John Cleal enjoyed the blast from the past. And John says Luke McCallin’s The Man From Berlin, another wartime thriller with an unconventional hero, is bold, brutal, bloody and brilliant!

Our historical king John says you’ll need a strong stomach for Richard Marggraf Turley’s The Cunning House, a Georgian tale of illicit sex, religious extremism, murder, espionage and war!

Among the police procedural offerings, Sylvia Maughan says it’s worth persevering with Susan Hill’s The Soul of Discretion, the latest outing for Chief Supt Simon Serrailler, as it deals sensitively with some thoroughly unpleasant topics. Linda Wilson enjoyed Luke Delaney’s The Jackdaw, where someone is putting bankers on trial online, even if she did raise her eyebrows at the central premise.

Elsewhere, The Root of All Evil is the second weighty addition to Roberto Costantini’s Italian-based trilogy. This one also moves to the Middle East and, says Arnold Taylor, is a powerful and evocative read with a strong historical angle to it.

And on the YA front, Linda Wilson says that Rook Hastings’ Immortal Remains is an entertaining mix of Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Nancy Drew!

We shone the lamp in Caro Ramsay’s eyes to answer the Countdown questions this week. And we like the cut of her jib very much – particularly given she’s a Famous Five fan.

We'll be back in a fortnight with 16 new reviews and an interview with a top author. In the meantime, please visit our friends at Reviewing the Evidence who have news on what’s been released in the US, Canada and Down Under.
And if you're not following us on Twitter, we’re chatting away happily at .

Linda and Sharon

Countdown with
Caro Ramsay

Caro Ramsay was raised on the south side of Glasgow and was drummed out of the Brownies for insubordination – badge-less!  She was the youngest person ever to graduate from the British School of Osteopathy in London, where rather than being a valued member of a Primary Care Team, her job seemed to consist of translating the Taggart episode that had been on the night before. Upon graduation, she returned to Glasgow to establish her own practice, which even in the early days included the treatment of animals. It was while recovering from a very bad back injury that she started writing what was to become Absolution.

Ten words to sum up your working life to date ...

Hard, rewarding, amusing, tiring, emotionally depleting, creative, excessive, nurturing, compassionate and chaotic.

Nine things you can see from where you're sitting ...

The dog, the cat, the computer screen, an empty bottle of Pinot Grigio, cushions on the floor that the dog has pulled off the settee, my big teak table covered in bits of typescript, two half-burnt candles, a bronze statue of a rearing horse, beautiful Scottish scenery through the big window.

Eight minutes to prepare a meal. What's it going to be ?

A wrap, cottage cheese, crisps, hummus, lettuce, anything lying in the fridge served with Pinot.